Orphanage update 11

Knowing that we were going to furlough earlier than expected due to Heidi’s upcoming delivery, we were pressed to finish the construction of the orphanage quickly. Thankfully, by God’s grace, we are nearing that goal!

This is how she looks from the outside now with the paint and rock work done.

ExteriorHere is the view from the grassy area of our property that shows the location of the orphanage, playground, gazebo and the Bible Institute.

View from the grassHere is a shot of one of the two large bedrooms for the children.

BedroomThe windows have been installed, and now we just need to put the screens on to keep the mosquitoes out.

WindowsMany of the doors have just arrived too and will be installed very soon.

DoorsHere is a picture of the kitchen.

Kitchen

This is a serving counter that we put in between the kitchen and the dining room to pass plates of food back and forth.

Dining roomOne of the last things that we are working on is the front gate entry way. It was not done very well when we built the Bible Institute years ago, and it took a beating from all of the big trucks bringing in loads of sand, gravel, cement and other building supplies.

Front gatesShe’s almost done, and we are so thankful that everything is finally coming together. Please pray for the future of the orphanage as there is a lot of work to be done after the construction phase before it will be operational.

May God be glorified by all that takes place in the ministry here, and may He richly reward all of our partners who have sacrificed to make these ministries possible.

Heidi’s Family Update 03/14

Eating a lot of popsicles, playing in our inflatable pool, and spending much time in our bedroom with the A/C running has been how our girls have spent much of the month of March, our hottest month of the year! We’ve survived just fine and have many reasons to be grateful during this time, especially as we think of our Togolese friends, many who must endure this heat without even a fan in their home! We are thankful for the use of A/C during this hot season, which aids in a good night’s sleep and helps ward off the heat rashes prone to bother our girlies when the temperatures are extreme.

Here’s Emma in our little pool during Annabelle’s party with the orphanage in the background.

Emma in the pool

 

During March we’ve had a habit of eating lunch as a family in our bedroom while chatting and often watching a downloaded podcast of the NBC nightly news. Several weeks ago Abby took notice when the news coverage spoke of the Syrian civil war and the reporter walking through different refugee camps. She saw a few seconds of a clip where children were interviewed whose parents had been killed, and it touched our very compassionate firstborn’s heart. She went and collected all her money that she has earned recently and asked if we could send it to the children. We didn’t want to squelch her tender and giving spirit, so Jon went online and found a non-profit organization that was doing relief work among the displaced children of the Syrian conflict where she could give her donation. We are glad to see her act when something touches her heart, like this situation, and hope her tender spirit and desire to help others only continues to grow through the years to come.

Abby hiking

Six hours in the truck isn’t too far to go for a prenatal checkup when it’s your only option. We took a family trip down to the missionary hospital mid-March to do just that. It’s always reassuring to me to have a few tests run, check my iron level, blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat and just the general things done at a prenatal visit. Because it’s their normal procedure, they also tested me for Syphilis and HIV and told me they were negative. Whew! What a relief! Ha! The nurse said I’m measuring about a week ahead of what we’d thought, but we’re sticking with the due date of Sept. 24th. I have been feeling the baby move some already, which is much earlier than the other three pregnancies. Annabelle even felt the baby over the weekend for the first time, which was a delight to her!  Thank you for your continued prayers for our baby #4 and for my health. I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of my long sickness and am extremely thankful for that!

Our sweet Annabelle celebrated her 4th birthday this last day of March and what fun we had making her day special. Her birthday party was held earlier in the month down at the orphanage property and playground with three other families and their children.

Below: Annabelle celebrates her birthday with other missionary children.

Annabelle at party with friends

 

 

Annabelle and Abby at partyJust fifteen minutes or so into the party, Annabelle walked behind someone on the swings, was hit and fell down where she hit her head on one of the bricks that keeps the sand in the playground area. This caused nearly an inch gash on the side of her head and blood began flowing immediately. How thankful we were to have a missionary nurse right there at the party who assessed Annabelle, as she sat so bravely in her daddy’s lap. Realizing it was a good idea to have the cut stitched up, yet having no one or hospital nearby whom we trusted to stitch it up, we tried to close it by tying her hair together, but ultimately it came open and started to scab over the following day.  Annabelle’s one concern while being treated was that she wouldn’t get one of her cupcakes! After the bleeding had stopped, Annabelle was able to continue playing with her friends and enjoy a fun party, and of course she got her cake and ice cream. We were thankful to have friends together to celebrate her life and are thankful she is healing just fine from her cut.

The nasty cut is pictured here along with Annabelle sitting on Jon’s lap while being looked at by the nurse. She was so brave!

Annabelle's cut

Sitting on dad's lap after fallAbout five minutes after returning home from the party, we could not find Emma. After calling for her several times and checking throughout the house, Jon called me outside. She had climbed through the open back door of the truck and was munching on leftover cupcakes, keeping very quiet all the while. She had suddenly given her hiding spot away when she began honking the truck horn!

Emma in truck with cupcakesOn her actual birthday, we allowed Annabelle to choose the breakfast food and her birthday meal. Homemade chocolate chip muffins are how we began the day and ended it with homemade pepperoni pizza and breadsticks followed by cake and ice cream.  She was one happy girl and had a great day, no more a three-year old.

Below: Annabelle shows off the cookies Abby bought her for her birthday.

Annabelle happy with birthday cookiesBirthday supperOur 4 year oldJon set a personal record this month of running 100 miles. Each day except Sunday, he’d awake early and go run, before the scorching heat began. Though it was early, it sure wasn’t cool and each day sweaty, stinky clothes were washed, yet we were proud of his dedication to finish strong and he did just that! Over the past several weeks he has been very busy with construction projects both at the orphanage and out at our village church in Tchandida. Now a third project at the Kpaha church is about to begin, where a piece of land was purchased this month for a church building. He enjoys taking the girls along when its’ feasible for certain errands, and though they often sit in the truck the entire time, they are usually eager to get out of the house :)

Here’s Jon after a hot run.Jon after a run 2

Sending love and some warmth from Togo,

Heidi

 

FBC Tchandida

Few things in life could bring me more joy than watching how the Lord builds His church in places like Tchandida. This is a village 16 miles from our house that until a few years ago was almost untouched by the gospel. Its people were steeped in voodoo and enslaved in a dark world of witch doctors and fears of curses. In fact, the first thing we had to do when we started this church was to cut down a very large tree right next to our little building where animals were sacrificed in fetish ceremonies. By God’s grace, this place has come a long way from that point, and it is our joy to give you a little tour of FBC Tchandida.

Outside view of the churchMost Sundays we are out in the village of Kpaha where we have started a second church, but I try to get back to Tchandida often to teach on important issues like this past Sunday when I taught on the role of deacons in the church.

My translator, Atiyodi, has been such a big help to the work out here. It is awesome having a translator who can finish my thoughts for me and knows exactly what I am trying to communicate to the people. I love this guy and thank God for him.

AtiyodiThere is something about the nuances of different cultures that I find very interesting. Take a close look at the next picture and try to guess what I am referring to. Hint: It has to do with the men and the women.

Men and women in churchI bet you figured it out. The men and the women do not sit together during the service. The church has three rows of benches. One for the men, one for the ladies and one for the children. The funny thing is that couples do not talk much together before or after the service either, so it can be difficult to know who is with whom. A case in point, recently a man in the church introduced me to his wives. Yes, that still happens here and no, we do not condone it. It is a part of the culture that is slowly changing here and the young people of Togo are not generally following in that tradition of their ancestors.

So the above picture was taken after the morning service, while the kids were over here in their little building.

Outside view of children's churchWe are in the process of building the children a new children’s church and will complete it just as soon as our head mason finishes working on the orphanage and can get back to this other project.

New children's church buildingWhen we first built the church, I asked the people if they would like a baptistry on site or if they wanted to walk to the river that is just a few miles away for baptisms. They unanimously chose a baptistry on the property as the river can be pretty nasty when the water is not flowing quickly. So here is our humble little baptistry where many have followed the Lord in a public profession of their faith, including our little Abby last September.

BaptistrySpeaking of water, I forgot to show you our “water fountain” in the main church building.

Water fountainIt is conveniently located right next to the diesel fuel for the generator. I’m all about “when in Rome…”, but I have to draw a line somewhere.

Back to the children’s church for a couple pics of the kiddos. First, the boys…

Boys in SSAnd then the girls (with a few boys thrown in there who must find the girls side more interesting).

Girls in SS

You should have seen the little guy wearing black on the front row during their version of God is good. If I can get our creepy crawly internet to post a video of it later, I will do so.

Children’s church is BYOB, of course that means Bring Your Own Bench.

Boy carrying a benchTheir building does not exactly have a door to it, so all of the benches get carried back into the main church building after their service is over. I always make sure to get Abby and Annabelle to safety when 20 little tykes start swinging those benches around on their heads as they hurry to put them up.

I end with two pictures of the man who is going to be the pastor of FBC Tchandida, Tchaa.

Me and TchaaTchaa is the son of the village chief and one of the first people that we saw trust Christ when we came here to Togo. He is married with two kids, has a great desire for the Word of God and loves to share Christ with all who will listen. He graduated from our Bible Institute last year and exemplifies what the back of his Bible Institute shirt says.

Tchaa's BI shirtThe gospel of Jesus Christ that I have been taught by others is now being entrusted to this faithful man who will be able to teach others also. It’s 2 Tim. 2:2 in action and it is awesome to see.

Heidi’s Family Update for 02/14

The month of February was a challenging month for me, and one I am sure thankful has ended. Yet in spite of my being sick every day and in bed or on the couch, the girls and their daddy have made the best of it.

Abby and Annabelle joined their daddy on a hike to “Pride Rock” in early February. After seeing the pictures Jon took, it was a good thing I was not along, or our girls would not have been on that rock! I am glad they had a good time and got some really neat pictures of their adventure.

Girls on hikeJon and girls at Pride Rock

Emma is quickly becoming a daddy’s girl as well after a month of going “bye bye” with daddy most every day. Oftentimes Jon takes them to the orphanage property where they can play on the playground. She loves to be outside and is eager to give me a kiss and say “bye bye” when leaving with her daddy.

Girls at the playground

Jon has also given her cookies, ice cream…etc. which only makes her desire to be with him even more! She is nearing Jon’s “favorite age” of our children, between 2-5, a time when they say and do the cutest things. An example of that would be Annabelle’s difficulty in pronouncing the letter “s”. So she says that she has “_choolwork” to do and does not want to get a “_panking”.

On one outing with daddy, Abby and Annabelle went with Jon to visit a Togolese friend and his family. They had a great time chasing his chickens around and trying to hold them in their arms.

Girls with chickens

Valentine’s Day is one we always look forward to as a family. Though lower key this year, we enjoyed making cards for each other, picking the name of someone in our family and buying them a little something special, homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast and the girls had a daddy/daughter date night to a local restaurant.

Girls out to eat

Jon left early the morning of the 14th and had a friend take the sweetest picture of him in front of a huge red heart he found in town that said “I love you! It was such a thoughtful way to express his love.

Jon with heart

The girls have all been so sweet and considerate while I’ve been lying around like a slug for the month. Abby is quick to go for a cold washrag for my head when I throw up or some toilet paper to wipe my mouth. Annabelle will rub my back and Emma gets involved as well. She likes to imitate mommy vomiting in the bowl or pushes my head out of the way so she can see what was thrown up! Maybe she’ll be a nurse one day, as gross things don’t seem to affect her as they might others.  Abby and Annabelle were both concerned the first several days that I threw up that I might just throw up the baby! I quickly put their fears to rest by explaining that that was not possible. Annabelle also likes to remind me that anytime I eat something the baby is eating it too…. which big sister explained to her.

Our evenings this month have been filled with fun family games or a movie while all gathered in our bedroom with the A/C unit. It’s really warming up here as we are now into hot season, so supper and the last few hours of the evening are spent together in the cooler temperature of our bedroom in an attempt to avoid eating in  the dining room where it is over 90 degrees! Abby learned Monopoly this past week, which she is really enjoying. God has been so good to give us so much time together as a family, which I will always cherish, especially during these sweet childhood years of our girls.

Thank you to all who have prayed for my health over this past month. God has been so good and is giving me daily the strength that I need. We are excited to meet #4 in September and Jon can’t wait to find out if he is finally getting that boy that he has been hoping for, or if we’ll have four little women. Either way, of course, will be wonderful!

Heidi

 

Orphanage update 10

Almost all of the window frames and door frames are finally in place allowing the masons to finish the “crepissage” work (applying a smooth layer of mortar to the walls) and then the painters are able to put on a couple of coats of primer.

Living room with bags of cement

These paintbrushes are something else. I’ve tried painting with them before, and it is definitely not easy.

Paintbrushes

We had another delay obtaining all of the wood for the window frames and door frames that stopped the work for a couple of weeks, and then there was a shortage of cement too, but thankfully we now have plenty of both.

At this point we are getting ready to put the ceiling in that I just ordered from the neighboring country of Ghana. We are going to try a new plastic ceiling instead of the traditional wood ceilings that we have done in the past with only moderate success. It should look really nice, and I look forward to hopefully posting pics of that next month.

Getting ready for the ceilingThe electricians have been busy working on the orphanage too. This is a picture of a good Muslim friend of ours named Adam.

Electrician working

He has been around lots of missionaries over the years where he has been exposed to the gospel, but he has not yet turned from Allah to the One True God. Please pray for him that God would open his eyes that he might see Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

There are various kinds of work going on right now at the orphanage which is a very good thing. The building pace has picked up as I am doing everything possible to make sure that the orphanage is finished by early June. Guys are constantly in need of work around here as the unemployment numbers would be north of 50% if they actually kept such statistics. So when possible, I hire Bible Institute guys to do work like digging out this trench for the electrical lines.

Electrician digging for the wires

The finished building, next to the gazebo, is the Bible Institute. We have also tried our hand at landscaping by planting five coconut trees and putting down a bunch of clean rocks, forever eliminating the need to mow that part of the property in the future.

We have purchased smooth rocks for the lower part of the exterior of the building and can’t wait to finish all of the crepissage work so that we can put those on too. The outside of the orphanage will look a lot like the Bible Institute in the above picture when it is finished.

Rockfacing1

The last picture is of the welders working on the railing. We initially did not plan on having any horizontal bars, but the welder accidentally spaced the vertical bars so far apart that Annabelle was able to slide right through them making them too dangerous to put upstairs in front of the children’s bedrooms.

Welders workingThank you for your interest in the ongoing construction of the orphanage. We are excited about the progress and praying that we can finish it all in the next 3.5 – 4 months. Please pray with us to that end.

Heidi’s family update for 01/14

Our family always enjoys the start of a new year, and 2014 is already off to an exciting start.

Abby has been asking us for a dog for years. Not being “pet lovers,” we have tried to satisfy her desire for a dog with other, easier to maintain, animals: rabbits, a hedgehog, goats, chameleons. etc. However, her desire never waned for a dog. Much to my surprise, Jon gave in, and we purchased for her a six week old puppy just before Christmas. It kind of happened on a whim as we were made aware of the fact that some fellow missionaries were selling off their litter of puppies and had one left. This spontaneous decision was made a few minutes before Abby was to receive a meningitis shot, and knowing her fear of shots, Jon thought this announcement would help calm her a bit. It worked, and Abby was pleasantly surprised with her dad breaking the news of us buying her a dog! She named her puppy, Midnight, and so far has been faithful to take care of her as she had promised!

MidnightMidnight's home

Around the second week of January I began not feeling “right.” The thought quickly came to mind that I was possibly pregnant and my concern was that soon I’d probably be laid up and unable to care for my family, as previously has been the case with other pregnancies. Over the next couple of days I tried to make and freeze some things to help if this was indeed the case. We took a family trip to do grocery shopping in the capital of Lomé, six hours south, and though I had to lie down most of the trip there and back we all had a good time. The day after we returned home, the real nauseousness began, and I was quite confident I was pregnant.  A pregnancy test soon revealed that that was indeed the case, and my husband was immediately on cloud nine!

Pregnancy

I don’t know of any other men who get excited when their wives become sick, but mine does! He has great pity for me, but knowing that I’m most likely pregnant, as that seems to be the main times I’m sick, makes him smile from ear to ear. So, #4 is on the way, and we are all very happy about that. The Lord has blessed us abundantly with three precious girls and we are eager to welcome either another princess or our first boy into the family near the end of September.

Jon has truly amazed me with his ability to fulfill both his role as Daddy as well as care for the girls in the things I generally do, since I’ve been sick. The guy can cook, clean, change diapers, entertain the girls, bathe them, put them to bed, keep them quiet when mommy’s resting…etc. I’m very thankful for the wonderful husband God has given me and our girls are blessed to call him DADDY.

Many of you are aware that our sweet Emma, who is 17 months old, is a climber! She has been climbing on anything and everything since she began walking at 11 months. This includes the dining room table, coffee tables, Jon’s desk, Abby’s school desk, beds, nightstands…etc. We have been very grateful she has not hurt herself in all her climbing, especially since we have tile floors in every room of the house.

Well, her injury free streak ended last night as she climbed up on a wooden shoe rack, tried to turn around and lost her footing, crashing chin first onto Jon’s wooden desk. As I rushed over and picked her up, I immediately saw blood pouring out from her chin. She had a good inch size gash just under her chin and being that it was already 8 at night, our options were limited. Jon immediately called a doctor friend two hours north, and he advised us to leave early in the morning and bring her up for him to stitch her chin.

Stitches

Abby really wanted to go with her daddy and Emma, but we weren’t sure that was the best idea as the girls had gone to bed late and Jon wanted to leave around 5:30am. However, when I walked out of our bedroom at 5:15am to grab some breakfast for Jon, I noticed a few lights already on. Abby was all dressed in the living room, had a play horse and a book beside the front door to help her pass the time in the truck, was thumbing through one of her school books and had an empty bowl next to her, saying she’d already eaten some cereal for breakfast. “Dad didn’t think I’d wake up in time, but I showed him” she said to me with a cute little laugh.

Jon was happy to have her along for the ride and to help with Emma and they were out the door at 5:45AM. As Jon held Emma, the doctor gave her several shots to numb her chin and then proceeded to stitch her up. Jon relayed to me how well she behaved and how still she was through the whole procedure. If you know our Emma, being still is not her forté, and I was very proud of her to say the least!  Once again daddy was the hero, willing to take Emma alone, since I was too sick to go, and have her chin taken care of in hopes of reducing the scaring. We are very thankful her injury was not more serious and that Jon didn’t need to drive the six hours to a missionary hospital, as he had to do with Abby three years ago for the same reason, because we now have another missionary hospital only two hours north of us!

So our year is off to an exciting start and we have so much to thank the Lord for even during times of sickness or injuries. God is so good to take care of us daily, and we are honored that so many of you, our family and friends, keep us in your prayers as we serve here in Togo. Thank you!

Misc. pictures below

Abby and Annabelle playingAbby and Annabelle playing while Jon and I visit with a friend. They play so well together and we just love watching them interact.

HarmattanThis is a picture taken from on top of our house looking out towards the mountain. We are in harmattan season here, the time of year when the dust from the Sahara creates a haze for us that can pretty much coat everything in your house with a layer of dust each day.

The girls at churchThe girls playing before church in the village of Kpaha.

Truck 1If we had a dollar for every time that we have seen a semi truck turned over here we would all be very wealthy. Jon saw this guy today on the way back from getting Emma’s stitches. It looks like the driver lost a load of cotton on this dirt road.

Truck 2It’s a dangerous job being a truck driver here. We thank God every time we travel long distances here for protecting us all on these crazy roads.

Working out with the girlsAnnabelle and Emma like to try and copy Jon while he does push-ups so he thought that he would incorporate them into his workout.

Orphanage update 9

What a difference it makes to finally put the roof on the orphanage!

Orphanage

During the wait we have been working on the gazebo a lot and have just about finished it.

Gazebo

The mason will finish the rock facing today, and then the painters will spruce it up a little bit, and then lastly the carpenters will finish the job by making some beautiful wooden chairs to sit on.

We are currently working daily on the downstairs part of the orphanage. They have just finished installing all of the window frames and door frames with security bars in the plastic tubes shown below.

Window frames

There is a crew of about six masons who are working daily to put what they call the “crepisage” on the walls. This is a cement mixture that puts a smooth, clean look on the brick walls before the painters come through to start painting.

Crepisage

There is still so much work to do downstairs that we have not yet started to do anything upstairs. The downstairs is where we will have the living room, dining room, kitchen and two small bedroom/utility rooms. The upstairs will have two large children’s bedrooms, each big enough for up to 10 kids, and then two individual rooms for the orphanage mothers. Here is a picture of Abby and her new dog Midnight in one of the bedrooms.

Children's bedroom

My naive goal last year was to finish the orphanage in 2013. My new, realistic goal is to finish it in 2014.

Thank you for your prayers for the continued progress of this big task, and may you all find as much happiness in the new year as our little eight year old girl who just got her first dog, or this thirty-four year old man whose college football team just went 14-0 to win the national championship.